The salad counter at the newest Baker & Spice, which opened on the Dubai Marina Promenade a couple of months ago, is hugely appealing. It showcases an artfully arranged jumble of colours and ingredients, which speak of health and generosity and is, I think, something that the brand does better than anywhere else in the city.
My friend, who opted for the four salad taster plate when we visited earlier on in the week, agreed. Moutabel was creamy, with a chunky texture and plenty of parsley and pomegranate seeds. Large chunks of sweet potato topped with rings of chilli and crispy sage leaves were soft in the centre, with a scorched, sugary surface. Spiced, roasted cauliflower speckled with yogurt, coriander leaves and more chilli was very nice, as were layers of roasted, sliced aubergines and ruby red confit tomatoes finished with crumbled feta and sprightly green leaves.
Had we just sampled the salads, then this may have been a rave review. But we didn't and it isn't.
Arriving at around 11am, we ordered the selection of homemade breads "served with butter and homemade preserves". When only one preserve (raisin) arrived, we questioned it and a few minutes later an additional little dish of strawberry jam was brought over. The contents of the basket proved to be a bit mixed: the sourdough in particular was excellent - tangy, chewy and really delicious, topped with a smear of cold butter - but the brioche was notably dry.
A spinach and feta omelette was disappointingly average. It lacked seasoning and was a little rubbery, which is just not what I expect from Baker & Spice, especially when paying Dh40. A scattering of feta felt more like a sparse garnish than a filling and the tough stalks hadn't been removed from the spinach, nor had the vegetable been drained properly, meaning that it leaked water into the middle of the omelette and diluted the flavours further.
My croque madame was served covered in a generous blanket of pale cheese and béchamel sauce which, although pleasant, was no match for the barely toasted bread and quickly made it soggy. The traditional ham filling and fried egg topping had been replaced with a poached egg placed in the middle of the bread. It was adequate enough, but not the bubbling, blistered, crunchy, hot from the grill sandwich that I'd envisaged.
I am a pomegranate molasses nut. At Baker & Spice, you'll find bottles of the stuff on every table and on previous visits to their other outlets, I've generously anointed my food with the fruity, tangy sour-sweet syrup. I did exactly that to my side salad this time around, only to screw my face up in horror as the acrid flavour hit my taste buds. I can only deduce that a batch had been burnt and no one in the kitchen had caught on; it really wasn't pleasant or reminiscent of the condiment that I've enjoyed so much before.
When we visited, the cafe wasn't busy and there were enough staff on duty, but it felt as if they lacked direction; no one seemed to be in charge and service was slow. We experienced a couple of miscommunication issues when ordering and this became increasingly frustrating when I attempted to pay the bill and the card machine played up, but no one could explain to me what was going on.
No doubt because of the emphasis that is placed on local, organic, fresh ingredients and homemade dishes, the prices at Baker & Spice tend to be at the high end of the cafe spectrum. When the meal is spot on, this isn't a problem; however, when a light lunch for three comes to Dh213 and is fraught with inconsistencies, this does become an issue.
A lunch for three at Baker & Spice, The Promenade, Dubai Marina, costs Dh213, including service. For reservations call 04 362 4686. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and all reviews are conducted incognito